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Landslides as a Disaster

  Jun 01, 2020

Landslides as a Disaster

Which parts of India are vulnerable to landslides?

Landslides and avalanches are among the major hydro-geological hazards that affect large parts of India besides the Himalayas, the Northeastern hill ranges, the Western Ghats, the Nilgiris, the Eastern Ghats and the Vindhyans, in that order, covering about 15 % of the landmass. 

Are they triggered by human activities?

Landslides triggered by human activities are on the rise around the world and India is among the most-affected countries, accounting for at least 28% of such events over last 12 years.

Thousands are killed by landslides and many of these fatal landslides were caused by construction works, illegal mining and unregulated hill-cutting.

Human-triggered fatal landslides are increasing at the highest rate in India. Humans are placing increasing pressure on their local environment and fatal landslides triggered by construction, illegal hill-cutting and illegal mining are increasing.

In the Himalayan mountain region, especially in Nepal and India, many of the fatal landslides triggered by construction occurred on road building sites in rural areas. Landslides triggered by hill-cutting are a problem in rural areas, where many people illegally collect material from hill-slopes to build homes.

Analysis also revealed that many events occurred in mines or quarries.

Can you give two examples of huge landslides recently?

Landslides have caused massive damage of life and property during extremely heavy rain across India, most recently in Kerala. The Kedarnath landslide in Uttarakhand in 2013, caused by flash floods that resulted in over 5,000 deaths, was identified as the most tragic such disaster.

Kerala had battled floods in 1924, but the landslides were not as disastrous as witnessed during 2018. These are ecological consequences of development done at the cost of environment. Fatal landslides were found to be more common in settlements, along roads and at sites rich in precious resources.

What can be done from the disaster management perspective for preventing damage from landslides? 

We can stop loss of life and prepare ourselves in the wake of landslides. The Government of India has made plans to identify the areas where landslides occur repeatedly. This is achieved through Landslide Hazard Zonation (LHZ) maps which show areas in different colours. Red, Yellow and Green signify as dangerous, caution and safe in Hilly regions of Coast, Himalayas and rough terrain. NDMA has published Guidelines on Landslides and Snow Avalanches: